Despite a wealth of scientific evidence debunking any link between autism and vaccinations, tonight’s Republican primary debate featured prominent commentary from a leading candidate repeating inaccurate information suggesting a link. The Autistic Self Advocacy Network is disappointed that long after the science has spoken, politicians and pundits continue to focus on causation, distracting from the real and pressing issues facing the autistic community. Politicians continue to talk about an autism epidemic – despite the fact that the science suggests that autism has always existed at its current rate within the general population. Autistic people are not new – and neither are our unmet needs. Unfortunately, those who focus on causation choose to push those needs aside.
Federal investment in autism research focuses overwhelmingly on basic research around causation and biology, with almost no funding going towards research on adults or services across the lifespan. The lack of focus on the key issues facing autistic people and our families – employment, housing, healthcare and rights protection – is shameful. Instead, too many commentators rely on pseudo-scientific causation myths and abdicate their responsibility to work towards improving the lives of Autistic Americans and our families.
While no link exists between autism and vaccines, of greater concern is the willingness of those who promote this theory to suggest that exposing children to deadly diseases would be a better outcome than an autistic child. Vaccinations do not cause autism – but the use of autism as a means of scaring parents from safeguarding their children from life-threatening illness demonstrates the depths of prejudice and fear that still surrounds our disability. Autism is not caused by vaccines – and Autistic Americans deserve better than a political rhetoric that suggests that we would be better off dead than disabled.